A reinterpretation of the δDH2O of inclusion fluids in contemporaneous quartz and sphalerite, Creede mining district, Colorodo: a generic problem for shallow orebodies?

Economic Geology
By: , and 



Water extracted from fluid inclusions in quartz from shallow epithermal ore deposits often has a hydrogen isotope composition (δD) different from that of water extracted from inclusions in associated minerals. This difference is usually attributed to the involvement of primary fluids from multiple sources. Isotopic and homogenization and freezing temperature determinations on fluid inclusions from contemporaneous quartz and sphalerite from the epithermal, silver and base metal orebodies of the OH vein, Creede district, Colorado, suggest an alternative explanation. In near-surface deposits, differences between δDH2O of inclusion fluids in ore minerals and quartz may result, instead, from contamination during extraction of the fluids contained in primary inclusions by shallow ground water trapped in pseudosecondary inclusions in quartz.

Quartz from the OH vein contains two principal petrographically distinct populations of fluid inclusions: primary and pseudosecondary. The primary inclusions have salinities ranging from 5 to 10 equiv wt percent NaCl, and the salinities of pseudosecondary inclusions cluster between 0 and 1 percent. Primary inclusions in quartz from one locality have a measured δDH2O value of -69 per mil, while pseudosecondary inclusions at the same locality have a δDH2O value of -102 per mil. Both salinity and isotopic values for primary inclusions in quartz are similar to those for primary inclusions in contemporaneous sphalerite. Homogenization temperatures for primary and pseudosecondary inclusions in quartz range from 191° to 280° C and from 199° to 278° C, respectively. The δDH2O value measured on fluid inclusions from bulk crystals ranges between -97 and -85 per mil and represents a mixture of fluids from both primary and pseudosecondary inclusions.

We interpret the data to indicate that one or more episodes of abrupt incursion of cooler, overlying ground water into the ore zone caused thermal cracking of the quartz crystals during the time interval of mineralization. Subsequent healing of the fractures trapped heated, low-salinity ground water in pseudosecondary inclusions. The abrupt incursions of overlying ground water are speculated to have resulted from either collapse of a transient vapor-dominated region of the ore zone, or catastrophic venting of the system through hydrothermal eruption(s).

The unusually high contrast between the salinities of the ore-depositing fluids and the ground water overlying the ore zone allowed recognition of this phenomenon at Creede. It is likely, however, that Creede is not unique. Similar phenomena may be common in shallow ore zones where rapid fluctuation of an interface between a deep, high-temperature thermal plume and an overlying, cooler ground water may be expected to occur. Careful study of the origins of fluid inclusions, particularly in quartz, is essential to characterize the primary ore fluids and to assess the role of ground water in the hydrology of shallow ore deposits.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title A reinterpretation of the δDH2O of inclusion fluids in contemporaneous quartz and sphalerite, Creede mining district, Colorodo: a generic problem for shallow orebodies?
Series title Economic Geology
DOI 10.2113/gsecongeo.84.7.1966
Volume 84
Issue 7
Year Published 1989
Language English
Publisher Society of Economic Geologists
Contributing office(s) Eastern Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center
Description 12 p.
First page 1966
Last page 1977
Country United States
State Colorado
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N